Why It’s Okay To Say No To Christmas This Year

In two days, it will be Christmas of 2018 in Georgia and throughout the nation.  There’s lots of traditions and expectations that come with the holidays and this week, I have been hearing a lot about them at the practice in the last few weeks. Clients and I have made holiday contingency plans all month to keep them mentally well this season.  In my own extended family, we gather, and they have a prayer and eat a meal together and open presents every year on Christmas night.  Expectations can be high for the holidays. People are expected to see family that they don’t see everyday and people are expected to be kind and giving and joyous throughout family gatherings.

It Can Be Hard

It isn’t as easy as that for some people.  It’s possible that if you are reading this right now, you aren’t a spiritual person, or if you are, you don’t believe in the traditional beliefs of the religious reason for celebrating Christmas.  Christmas can be an incredible difficult time of the year for people that are Jewish, Pagan, Atheist or Agnostic or just don’t believe in the traditional spiritual Christmas traditions. Often people come into my office that are having difficulties with all the expectations of Christmas.  The constant stream of hugs, the questions asking what church you attend and the hand holding prayer circles.  It’s hard for them and they feel pressure from their family and friends to participate in traditions that are difficult to them or they don’t particularly believe in.

Name Your Expectations

So, what can you do if you are expected to participate in traditions that aren’t meaningful to you?  The first thing you need to do is decide what is good for your mental health.  Put your own mental health first and figure out if participating in traditions is going to be okay for you, or if it’s going to be so uncomfortable it lessens your own mental health.  Sometimes people are okay doing things like holding hands to pray or giving Christmas presents even if they have a different belief system than what the holiday entails.  Sometimes, people have so much religious trauma that it’s unhealthy for them to participate in the traditions of the holiday and you really need to be able to learn your limits.

Set Your Limits

If you decide you can participate, then decide what your limits of participation are for that holiday or tradition.  Some people say that they are okay with a family prayer, but not being asked to pray and some people are okay decorating for Christmas and participating in the secular parts of the holiday, but not attending religious services.  It’s really what is healthy for your own mental health.

If you are having difficulty participating at all, decide what traditions you are okay with participating in.  Would it be a good idea for you to go to a Winter Solstice party instead or honor the traditions of Hanukah? There’s no steadfast rule that says what you need to participate in this winter season, but you do have an obligation to take care of your mental health and keep yourself well, even if that means not fully participating in what’s expected of you this year.

This can be a joyous, happy, jovial time of the year, but the reality is that it’s not that for everyone and I urge you to take care of yourself this year over Christmas break.  If you find you need a secular therapist to process your emotions with, you can reach me at 404-800-7586 or email me here for a free consultation.

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Decatur, GA 30030


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